Oozham Review (SPOILERS!!!): Some Nice Bits, But Not a Lot of Them

I already put up my non-spoiler quick little review.  This is the bigger one with lots of plot details.  I won’t be doing the full summary, like I do sometimes, but I will be revealing all the plot high points.  So if you are kind of curious about this movie, but not curious enough to spend the money and time going to a theater, read this! Normally I try to encourage people to see the movie anyway, but in this case, I can sincerely say, “don’t bother, just read this.”

It’s not a really bad movie, there were some cool ideas and so on in it, it just felt a little or thoughtless or something.  Not a lot of interest in the execution.

I was running late (stupid weekend traffic!) and I missed the first five minutes of the movie, but luckily I was meeting a friend there, so she was able to fill me in.

Right at the opening, there is an interesting pattern established, with us watching a massive action chase fight explosions sequence with Prithviraj being chased by like 3 dozen guys, that cuts back to “happy past” on clever little moments like a photo of his face fading into his face, or looking through a window at a happy family reminding him of his own happy family and so on and so on.  It’s a nice idea the first, say, 5 times it happens.  Especially in the first half of the film, when there are no real action scenes in the “present”, cutting to the chase serves to get the adrenaline going and remind you it’s an action movie after all.  But then it just keeps going and going and going and we keep cutting back to it even when the stuff in the “present” is much more exciting.

The first cut from chase to “present” shows Prithviraj arriving at his happy family home.  We meet all the relatives, his little sister who is planning her wedding (the reason he is home), his younger brother he is a bit bohemian and wants to be a white hat hacker, his father who works too hard at his government job at the health department, and his mother who is your standard issue saintly mother.  Prithviraj settles in at home and catches up on everybody’s little issues, his sister feels guilty for the money they are spending on the wedding, his brother Neeraj Madhav is between jobs, and his father seems overly anxious about something.  And he also meets his father’s good friend, and neighbor, a nice mustachioed police inspector.  And the inspector’s little sister, Divya Pallai, his only family, who recently finished her degree and now wants to spend some time just being with her brother, because she is a good “homely” girl.  Naturally, everybody’s brain starts turning right away about matching up Prithviraj and her, and they are both kind of into it.

(Really nice song here, with all the happy family stuff)

Prithviraj eventually has to go back to America, with the understanding that he will see them all soon when he comes back for the wedding.  Shortly after he leaves, his sister is stunned to see a police report that the nice police guy has just been killed by a bomb in his car!  They call their brother and confirm that he just saw their father, he had been visiting the police inspector but must have left before the bomb went off.  The sister then calls Prithviraj to report all this on skype, and as they are talking, and the computer camera is on, strange men burst into the house and inject her with something!  And then her mother! And then the father arrives and gets injected too!  And poor Prithviraj is stuck watching the whole thing on Skype, powerless.

Now, this is one of those cool idea things.  Skype and skyping with overseas loved ones is such an everyday thing, and it feels like you are part of their lives, but actually you are remote, unable to do anything substantive, you can just sit back and watch while they are all murdered.  Only, nothing really comes of this idea.  It’s just there, Prithviraj sees the murders and can identify the killers, that Chekhov’s gun goes off in about 10 minutes, and then it’s never mentioned again.

There were a lot of things in this bit that just never come up again.  Part of that could be deliberate, the idea that sudden death is so shocking because of all the things that were going to happen and haven’t.  Like, the parents were planning to retire and were fixing up their country house.  Or, his sister’s wedding.  But at a certain point, there are just so many dropped plot lines that it feels less on purpose and more distracted and forgetful.

Prithviraj arrives back in India to be greeted by his brother and the funeral.  Oh, and this bit reminded me forceably of Sholay, and then there were two other bits later that did as well.  But that could have just been me, once you look for Sholay, you find it everywhere.  In particular, this was Prithviraj arriving, fighting through the crowd, seeing his family laid out, and then noticing his brother Neeraj to the side, just like Sanjeev’s arrival.

The part after the funeral was really nicely done, Prithviraj laying (lying?) down on the floor in their empty living room, imagining his family there.  And then his brother coming to lay down next to him and gently remind him to eat.  This is also the only moment that felt like the actors and scriptwriter reminding us that his brother was adopted.  It came up briefly when they met the police inspector, that he had a Muslim name unlike the rest of the family, and it was briefly explained that his parents had been their neighbors, and when they died, Prithviraj’s family took Neeraj in.  This is a nice moment, reminding us that Neeraj has been through this before and is better able to take care of Prithviraj because he knows the steps.

It gets a little blurry here, it’s not clear when or how Prithviraj clues his brother in that their family was murdered, or that the police don’t think it was murder because they died of a virus.  But we find all that out later, so I am putting it in now.  The two brothers decide to go talk to Divya, since her brother was killed and maybe it was related.  They go to her house just in time to see her maidservant discover her suicide attempt.  Divya is so broken after losing her brother, she doesn’t want to live.  Well, that’s nice!  I’m so sick of these heroines killing themselves over boyfriends, it’s kind of refreshing to see it done for a brother!

(Ech, Aish in Hum Dil!  Pull yourself together and get over him!)

The 3 of them work together, putting together clues found around their house and in their memories.  This is another nice idea that wasn’t fully executed.  To take these moments and places that were originally part of a happy family life and suddenly see them as purely clues to solving the mystery of who killed them, that’s cool.  And over all too soon, as they figure out that Prithviraj’s father was investigating a medical corporation that was spiking it’s packaged water with viruses and bacteria, which its patented medicines could cure.  Clearly, evil Jayaprakash and his two sons and their chief executive officer ordered the deaths of Divya’s brother and Prithviraj and Neeraj’s family.  And then the final piece of the puzzle falls into place when they go to bring the evidence to the police and Prithviraj recognizes the new chief officer as the guy he saw kill his parents over Skype.  That was all so easy!

See, the filmmakers aren’t interested in the motives and the mystery, they are interested in the methods, how these clever young people are going to get their revenge.  And it is clever.  It’s a little with Neeraj being a hacker, and a little with Divya’s special skills of being female, but it’s mostly on Prithviraj, who was already established as a professional explosives engineer, specializing in controlled explosions.    Their first target is taken out even before intermission, all nice and tidy and easy.  They sneak in under the pretext of being cable repair men, control his TV from a van across the street, first play a little cartoon showing a figure representing each of them, and ending by throwing the newspaper articles reporting the death of their loved ones at the screen, and then blowing up the TV just enough to kill their target, but not enough to harm anyone else in the house.  BOOM!

(BOOM!)

The next target is slightly harder, because they’ve been warned.  They sneak into the corporate offices to find the executive officer by pretending to be computer repair men.  Again, the cartoon plays, but the executive officer had heard from a witness about the cartoon she glimpsed on the TV before the explosion and starts to run.  Also, Prithviraj is still in the building, having just barely stepped out of the office after planting the bomb.  The bomb goes off, but the bad guy survives to stumble to the door and start to shout after Prithviraj.  Who then triggers his second bomb, strapped to the door frame.  Because he wanted the bad guy to know and fear his death, and he wants to see it.

Now it’s just Jayaprakash and his two sons left to kill, but they are well-warned now and have brought in a hired gun, former Sri Lankan army explosives expert Pasupathy.  Who I am POSITIVE I recognize from something, but I can’t see anything on his filmography!  Very frustrating!  HA!!!  Found it!  Kannathil Muthamittal, which I only know by the English title A Peck on the Cheek.

Oh, right, Prithviraj and his crew are frustrated as well.  There’s a lot of “we’re splitting up!  we’re getting back together! I have a plan!” backing and forthing during this bit, but it’s really just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.  It’s just time kill, watching them in between moments of action.  Oh, and the police are after them as well, the honest police, who figured out that the two killings (so far) are connected and probably a personal revenge thing from someone these bad guys have clearly wronged.  But again, all the police back and forth ends up not really mattering and just being a time kill.

All that matters are the kills.  And the next one is kind of a cool one.  Divya strolls into the Playboy club where a kind of cool song is happening, and seduces Jayaprakash’s son away.  They go to his secret farmhouse, which he hid from Pasupathy so he could have privacy there.

(Cool song)

He comes on to her strong, but she asks for a drink and he backs off.  She pulls out her phone after he comes back and says that someone just sent her a funny video, does he want to see?  Now, normally, when there is a scene like this in a movie I think “who would get in a strangers car?” or “who would take a drink that was clearly poisoned?”  But this actually works!  I would totally take someone’s phone if they offered to show me a video!  Oh, and he also mentions that the phone is kind of heavy, which is a clever touch.  And then the cartoon starts, and he slowly figures out what happened, and Divya does a nice job letting her face change from fake friendliness to bitter vengeance.  And then the phone explodes, seconds after she pushes herself away, and she ends up with shrapnel in her face.

Prithviraj runs in to get her, and this would be the perfect moment for a love song.  But, no!  Not sure if they just didn’t want to bother filming another song, or if it was supposed to be that they lost the ability to even care about things like that after they lost their families and became consumed with vengeance.  Instead, we get several mentions of how she wasn’t supposed to be in danger, if she couldn’t get far enough away before the blast, she was supposed to abort the mission for the night.  Divya never really responds to this, and from what we saw she could have easily gotten farther away or aborted the mission, but she wanted to see his face as he died.  I don’t know if this is a subtle character touch, that Divya didn’t want to share her motives with the others, or that the director just didn’t notice the inconsistency.

She is injured enough that they have to take her to the hospital, where there is some serious talk about how “the doctor doesn’t believe our pressure cooker accident story, we’ll have to pay him off.”  What the heck did the doctor think happened?!?!?  It’s not like the injuries could come from anything but an explosion, so clearly they are building bombs.  Isn’t that the kind of thing you can’t really be paid off enough to hide?

It does come back to haunt them eventually, Neeraj is put in charge of taking Divya back and forth to the hospital, and way at the end, they are found there by Jayaprakash’s men after the doctor called them (I think in response to a reward publicized on TV?).  But before that, they have to figure out how to get at the remaining, more cautious, son.  Jayaprakash has decided to send him to Australia for his own safety, instead of continuing to have both of them holed up in the house together.  I immediately spot the flaw in this plan, that they will be vulnerable during the trip to the airport.  I should be a security expert!

Sure enough, Prithviraj drives up along side their cars and plants a bomb on the door with a super magnet.  We saw him playing with the magnet hours earlier, was this his plan all along?  He always knew there would come a time when they could only be accessed during a car trip?  I guess that works.

What doesn’t work is this particular kill.  Jayaprakash sees the bomb on the side of the car, rather than just calling his son’s cell phone, he has his driver come up along side so he can signal to him?  And then finally thinks to just block the car so it has to stop.  And when his son gets out and he yells “bomb!”, the kid takes like 5 minutes to process this before he even thinks of moving!  Which is why he dies.

So now it’s just Jayaprakash left, the “big bad”.  But things are getting harder and harder, the police are closing in (they almost caught Prithviraj once already, at his old house).  And Suryaprakash has figured out that Prithviraj and crew are the killers, thanks to tracking down the surviving relatives of everyone Jayaprakash had killed.  On the one hand, there’s some neat touches here, like not being able to find Prithviraj on facebook and checking out his dead sister’s account instead, where he sees a video tagged “my brother” of a controlled explosion.  And there’s the image of this huge board of photos, showing how many people Jayaprakash has harmed.  But there’s also MASSIVE PROP PROBLEM.  There’s this one distinctive photo that was used at least twice on the board, and both instances were in the shot for much of this scene.  So, some prop guy couldn’t be bothered to find a full 200 photos to use and just pulled 100 and printed them twice.  Really, of a piece with all the other uncaring bits in the rest of the movie.

Oh right, Jayaprakash tracks him down to his old house, and that’s the start of Longest Foot Chase Ever.  Through the most deserted neighborhood ever too!  They are running down alleys and jumping off roofs, and there are no other people there!  It’s like a chase scene in a post-apocalyptic landscape.  Or, a studio backlot.  One or the other.  At the end of it, after a lot of hand to hand fighting that Prithviraj, the demolitions engineer, really shouldn’t know how to do, he finally pulls off the backpack he has been carrying the whole time and throws it at some goons.  But before he can hit the detonator, Suryaprakash comes up and takes it, and the backpack which of course is holding a bomb, from him.

And then cut to the final Sholay reference!  I mentioned there were 3 moments that made me think of it, first the arrival to see the dead bodies laid out, second during this interminable fight scene at one point he throws dust in someone’s eyes to get away.  And now, Prithviraj and Divya and Neeraj (who were captured at the hospital) are all tied up against a big stone structure while the villain taunts them.  And Prithviraj has his own bomb strapped to his chest.

(Reminded me of this bit, but without the song)

Now, here’s the coolest bit of the film.  And it does kind of scan.  Prithviraj and Neeraj and Divya had been split up for a bit by this point, so they wouldn’t know the details of his plan because he couldn’t have shared it with them.  And I suppose he could have figured out how to fight just enough to make the capture look real, and make it look like desperation when he finally threw the bomb, but at the same time do it in such a way that they could easily grab him before he set off the detonator.  And then just assume that at some point they would strap the bomb to him and detonate it?

Anyway, the cool result is that while Neeraj and Divya are all scared and trying to free themselves, and the police are about to arrive, Prithviraj is all calm.  And then they hit the detonator switch in the car, and nothing happens.  And then there is that moment of realization that the bomb was in the detonator all along, and the whole car blows up.  And the movies over?

That felt really really sudden!  It would have been so easy to just tack something on with Neeraj, Divya, and Prithviraj moving into the country house and starting life fresh or something!  This ending was just plain weird.  And, well, kind of lazy and “good enough”, just like the rest of the film.

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8 thoughts on “Oozham Review (SPOILERS!!!): Some Nice Bits, But Not a Lot of Them

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